India, February 2024: My stay at Palette People Artists Residency

Painting on the veranda of our apartment at PPAR

A month in India

In February 2024, I escaped the Montreal winter with my husband Neil to spend a month in southern India! There, we spent the first 2 weeks enjoying great times with family in Bengaluru, Visakhapatnam (also known as “Vizag”), and Chennai, and getting to know some of the places they call home. We also visited Hampi – an enchanting destination (and a UNESCO World Heritage site) , featuring astounding ruins from the 14th – 16th centuries, and located in one of the most unique landscapes on the planet – as well as Kochi, widely recognized as the spice capital of the world.

2 weeks for art!

In mid-February, we headed to a beautiful artist residency located near the hill station of Vagamon, in the Idukki district of Kerala, where I spent 2 weeks, and Neil stayed for 1. Details below!

My stay at Palette People Artist Residency (PPAR)

Artwork: Paava kutti (little doll) and watercolours

During my stay, I created 8 small dolls from repurposed Indian fabric  scraps (helpfully provided by family members I visited earlier in the trip). This collection of figures will be featured in an upcoming animated work named “Paava Kutti”, or “little doll” (title courtesy of Benny, the caretaker and cook!) . I also created some watercolour paintings of the verdant landscape. Below is a sample of the work I created and a bit of the creation process.

About Palette People Artists Residency

Palette People Artists Residency (PPAR) far surpassed any expectations I may have had – from the photos and descriptions, I knew the locale would be beautiful, but I did not expect such a lush, varied, and dreamlike landscape. The residency was a tranquil, spacious oasis where I could immerse myself in creative endeavours while being inspired by the local sights and sounds.

Cyril P. Jacob, PPAR founder and host

Cyril was a wonderful host: He ensured that all our needs were addressed throughout our stay. Given the residency’s remote location, it was highly reassuring to have transportation to and from PPAR, all meals, and any other requirements taken care of! He also introduced us and the other artists to the area on several long walks, where we learned that, in addition to tea, various crops are grown locally, including black pepper and cardamom – proving that we were indeed in the “Spice Garden of Kerala”! We also met some of his local acquaintances and colleagues, and learned about Cyril’s ongoing activities in the arts. His dedication to the arts through his constant promotion of artists, exhibits, workshops, and other related initiatives, is truly inspiring.

Authentic Keralan cuisine – by Benny!

It was a pleasure to make Benny’s acquaintance: His  warmth and good nature immediately put us at ease. Each meal was a delight, as we sampled regional dishes that he had expertly prepared – and that, we were told, would not be found anywhere outside of the area! As I write this, I am longing for a plate of Benny’s appam and kadala curry – the perfect start to a day of creating (…or any day)! I’ll have to wait until my next visit!

Benny with jackfruit

Local coffee

We also became enchanted with the local spiced coffee – prepared with cardamom, cloves, and sugar (and likely some additional ingredients that we could not detect!) this concoction became a must-have and was all the motivation we needed for the 30-minute walk into Uluppoonni, the neighbouring town, where the general store and coffee shop were located.

Work and living spaces at PPAR

One of the best parts of the residency was that it provided multiple spaces in which artists could work and reflect: Each artist’s apartment had a veranda overlooking the hills, and the the path behind PPAR provided an elevated view from where we could watch the sunset. The large studio also afforded views of the landscape from 3 sides, and was a great place to work throughout the day and into the evening. The exterior walls of the buildings were adorned with artwork by past residents, and at any time, we could hear the sounds of the surrounding nature: Birdsong, insects, the wind…plus the daily, local life, which included tea harvesting, the occasional wandering cow, and trucks and jeeps lumbering past, transporting materials, groups of workers, and/or weekend holidayers.

Remembering PPAR – until the next time!

I look forward to becoming a “returning artist” at PPAR – thank you for the wonderful, unforgettable experience!

Sunrise, viewed from PPAR